INTERNATIONAL Justice Mission (IJM), a global organization dedicated to combating human trafficking and protecting vulnerable individuals, commended the Philippines for maintaining its Tier 1 ranking in the US State Department's Trafficking in Persons Report for the eighth consecutive year.
The recently released 2023 Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP Report) highlights the Philippines' exemplary efforts in the fight against all forms of human trafficking.
The annual report ranks countries based on the strength and effectiveness of their anti-trafficking efforts.
"This outstanding accomplishment underscores the Philippines' position as a global leader in the fight to end trafficking in persons, including the online sexual exploitation of children. On behalf of IJM, I would like to express our deepest appreciation to the Philippine government for their exceptional leadership in creating a nation-and a world-free from exploitation," said lawyer Samson Inocencio Jr., national director and regional vice president of the IJM's Program Against Online Sexual Exploitation of Children.
Notably, this latest recognition coincides with a recent rescue operation in Plaridel, Bulacan, led by the Philippine National Police-Women and Children Protection Center (PNP-WCPC). Two children were rescued from online sexual exploitation, and a suspected trafficker was arrested on June 16, 2023.
"We applaud the PNP for their swift response to international referrals and their determination to protect the most vulnerable members of society, particularly children who are victims of online sexual exploitation," Inocencio added.
The rescue operation in Plaridel, Bulacan, stemmed from a referral from Australian authorities following their arrest of Australian citizen Timothy John Lane at the Sydney International Airport, according to the PNP-WCPC. Lane's arrest followed the discovery of child abuse material on his mobile phone.
Further analysis of content on his phone revealed distressing conversations with female adults in the Philippines who are suspected to have received financial compensation from Lane for their involvement in producing child abuse materials.
The operation was led by Police Colonel Portia B. Manalad, acting chief of WCPC, in collaboration with the Plaridel Municipal Police Station, and in coordination with the Plaridel Municipal Social Welfare and Development Office and IJM.
Trafficking for the purpose of creating child sexual exploitation material is a growing, borderless crime. Offenders use online platforms to communicate with traffickers, often relatives or close acquaintances of the victims, directing them to livestream the sexual abuse and exploitation of children.
In 2022, a staggering 88.3 million images, videos, and other files related to child sexual exploitation were reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Despite the Philippines' consistent Tier 1 ranking in the global fight against human trafficking, there remains an urgent need for sustained efforts to address the significant scale of the problem.
"To maintain a Tier 1 ranking, governments need to demonstrate appreciable progress each year in combating trafficking. Tier 1 represents a responsibility rather than a reprieve," stated the TIP report.
The report emphasized the need for additional investment in prevalence studies to uncover critical data and gain a more accurate understanding of the reality of trafficking.
Coinciding with this recommendation, IJM is preparing to release a study called the Scale of Harm, which will provide valuable estimates on the prevalence of trafficking for the production of child sexual exploitation material in the Philippines.
This study aims to contribute to the development of data driven strategies and policies, further fortifying the ongoing efforts to combat this exploitation and ensure the protection of vulnerable children.
To date, IJM has provided support to Philippine authorities in rescuing 1,120 victims and apprehending 349 suspected perpetrators, with at least 193 of them having been convicted.
To report information about online child sexual exploitation, contact the Philippine National Police - Women and Children Protection Center at 0966-725-5961 (Globe) and 0919-777-7377 (Smart). (PR)